Legal Cannabis Could Be Cutting Into Beer Sales

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Data from the first set of U.S. states to legalize recreational cannabis suggests that the change has negatively impacted beer sales.

Colorado, Washington and Oregon all legalized marijuana back in either 2014 or 2015. Given time now to analyze the effects, pointed out in a recent article that beer volumes are down in each state as cannabis consumption grows among 18-25-year-olds.

Craft beer is in decline in Colorado, the article reports (citing recent data from Cowen and Company), while craft growth has slowed in Washington and Oregon.

Of course, craft beer growth has slowed nationwide, as the movement perhaps approaches a saturation point. But Cowen and Company data indicates that in markets where marijuana is legal, craft beer is underperforming the overall U.S. craft beer market by 950 basis points.

The greatest loser from legal cannabis appears to be Big Beer. Says the article: “The ‘biggest drag’ [in those three states] is on mainstream beer producers – those companies’ economy beer volumes are down 2.4 percent and premium domestic volumes (Bud Light, Coors Light, etc.) are down 4.4 percent.”


In terms of overall beer markets, craft and mainstream, Colorado, Washington and Oregon are underperforming the nationwide beer market by 260 basis points, according to Cowen and Company.

Research from Cowen and Company also indicates that cannabis legalization has not impacted imported beers in those three states, though added that those states do not typically have strong import sales.



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